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The Mayo Clinic research group defines narcissistic personality disorder as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

How do you know when your romantic partner may be a narcissist? The following are some telltale signs. While many people may occasionally be guilty of some of the following behaviors, a pathological narcissist tends to dwell habitually in several of the following traits, while remaining largely unaware of (or unconcerned with) how his or her actions affects the partner.

Here are eight signs that you may be dealing with a narcissistic lover. This article presumes that the reader is interested in a meaningful and monogamous (as opposed to casual and open) relationship. For tools on how to effectively handle narcissists, see my book (click on title): “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists”.

1. Insensitive to Your Needs. Narcissists can be very charming and persuasive. They’re typically masters at flirting, romanticizing, impressing, and convincing. It’s easy to fall under their influence and do what they want, for it might feel good to do so, at least initially. Very soon, however, you may discover that what you do with the narcissist is almost always on his or her terms. He may begin to place upon you greater demands, or become more critical, or show a pattern of unreliability.

Significantly, a narcissistic lover is often a poor listener, who likes to talk about him or herself most of the time, interrupts you often, and shows relatively little regard for your thoughts, feelings, priorities and needs.

2.  Flirts with Others. A clear warning sign that your lover may a narcissist is while the two of you are on a date, or doing “couple” things, he or she begins to flirt with others. This behavior shows a real disrespect and lack of class. The narcissist either does not have the maturity to know better, or holds you in such little regard that he doesn’t care. If you’re in a committed relationship, or building towards one, your partner’s behavior breaks two of the most essential keys to a successful relationship: trust and respect.

3.  Brags about Previous Romantic Conquests. Similarly, be cautious when your partner repeatedly regales you with tales of his romantic past, or updates you regularly about singles who find her attractive, or brags publically to friends about being intimate with you. Again, the narcissistic partner either does not have the maturity to be discreet, or the sensitively to be concerned about your feelings. For the narcissist, showing off to be admired seems more important than being in a genuinely loving and caring relationship.

4.  Uses You As a Trophy. Many narcissists like to do things to impress others and make themselves look good. In social encounters, this “trophy” complex can exhibit itself physically, romantically, sexually, professionally, materially, or culturally. In these situations, the narcissist uses people, objects, status, and/or accomplishments to represent the self, substituting for the insecure and inadequate “real” self. These grandstanding “merit badges” are often exaggerated. The underlying message of this type of display is: “I’m better than you!” or “Look at how special I am—I’m worthy of everyone’s love, admiration, and acceptance!”

5.  Uses You as a Rebound. After a hurtful breakup or divorce, some singles might seek to find another partner as soon as possible, instead of taking the time necessary to grieve, heal, and be heathy again. While the desire for such “rebound” relationships is understandable, it’s also has elements of narcissism—one is seeking companionship to avoid pain and loneliness, rather than to truly love and care. The person chosen as the rebound is used to temporarily fill a void. Many times, when the narcissistic protagonist gets over her or his previous break-up, the rebound relationship will also end.

6.  Uses You for Sex. One signal that distinguishes a narcissistic lover from someone who’s not is how he or she treats you when you’re not having sex. Since a narcissist uses others to satiate his or her own needs, he may disappear emotionally (if not physically) as soon as his gratification is met. You’re left hanging, perhaps feeling alone and empty, because little or no genuine intimacy was conveyed. There was love-making, but no real love. Then the narcissist will contact you again the next time he wants his craving appeased.

7.  Constantly Puts Others Down.

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

In order to put up a facade of superiority, and disguise hidden insecurity and inadequacy, some narcissists will constantly put other people down, to boost their own desirability and acceptability. In a romantic relationship, some (but not all) narcissists may also target their partners for ridicule, blame, shame, sarcasm, and overall marginalization. By subjecting the partner to an inferior psychological position, the narcissist is able to exercise a greater degree of dominance and manipulation.

8.  Unwilling To Make a Serious Commitment. If you and your partner have been dating for a good length of time, and your partner is unwilling to make a serious commitment because he or she wants to keep his romantic “options open”, it may be cause for concern. There are many possible reasons for a partner’s lack of commitment. Some are highly reasonable and deserve serious consideration. Others, however, may be highly selfish. What distinguishes a narcissist’s lack of commitment is his or her desire to keep the status quo with you, reap the benefits of intimacy, while keeping an eye out for other, perhaps more eligible (in the narcissist’s view) prospects. To the narcissist, consciously or subconsciously you’re not “the one,"  but a backup or stopgap.   

If you find yourself in a relationship with a difficult narcissist, there are many strategies and skills you can utilize to help restore health, balance, and respect. In my book (click on title): “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists”, you'll learn how to maintain composure, ways to be proactive instead of reactive, seven powerful strategies to handle narcissists, eight ways to say “no” diplomatically but firmly, keys to negotiate successfully with narcissists, and seven types of power you can utilize to compel cooperation.

Also available (click on title):

"7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success"

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, write to commsuccess@nipreston.com, or visit www.nipreston.com.

© 2015 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.

Select References

Brown, Nina. “Children of the Self-Absorbed, Second Edition”. New Harbinger Publications. (2008)

Bursten, Ben. "The Manipulative Personality". Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol 26 No 4. (1972)

Buss DM, Gomes M, Higgins DS, Lauterback K. "Tactics of Manipulation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 52 No 6 (1987)

Johnson, Stephen. “Character Styles”. W. W. Norton & Company. (1994)

Johnson, Stephen. “Humanizing the Narcissistic Style”. W. W. Norton & Company. (1987)

Lowen, Alexander. Narcissism: “Denial of the True Self”. Touchstone. (1997)

Symington, Neville. “Narcissism: A New Theory”. H. Karnac Ltd. (1993)

 

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